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The Misadventures of Temple of Doom

Indiana Wright
 
Indiana Wright

The steel jaws of the trap had snapped shut. But events had spun so wildly out of control. And now, as Indiana Wright slipped from consciousness, he was not quite sure exactly who’d been caught.

Soon, dense smoke mixed with the smell of feral cats violently forced its way into his lungs. Wright’s eyes clicked wide and his lean, muscular body stiffened to attention, though if a causal observer were watching, no signs of his readiness would have been observed. No one looked, because they’d all fled when the fire broke out. Wright felt the heat increasing, the flame’s shadows dancing against the scrim, and knew this was the apocalyptic showdown, untold treasure riding in the balance. Anticipation rippled through his arms and thighs, winding them tight like a spring. On the corner of the stage he saw Mary Lynne, almost unconscious, chest heaving, her miniskirt torn, revealing a creamy hip. It was she who had tipped Indiana off to the trove of guitars laying untouched at the feet of the far mountains. A rustling sound, like a rat moving through a trash-strewn alley, came to his ears. It was Albert, preparing to strike the final blow.

Earlier that night, the plan had worked like a charm. Mary Lynne wore her skirt even shorter than usual, and made sure her cleavage cleaved. She’d hooked Albert with the bait and conned him into proving himself by challenging Wright to a head cut. Yes, Albert – Albee to the scum who called him friend – was already sloppy drunk, as usual. An albino rat to those who knew him better for his neo-Nazi spewings. Oh, his tall angular features were attractive, the long white hair lending a hip flair. Until you saw the tattoo, the eagle perched on a swastika-engraved globe. One of many that screamed S.S., Wehrmacht, holocaust.

Had it gone according to the script, Mary Lynne would have already had the clue they needed to find the Temple and its amazing cache. They’d have left Albert, his inebriated face writhing in a show of fake emotion, wanking away on a self-indulgent solo blitz. He could play guitar fast in any condition, of that there was no doubt. But either Albert suspected the plot, or had just gotten drunker and meaner than usual.

Wright’s chops, Albee’s licks. Blues had moved on and got bad during a 25-minute romp through the Butters’ “East West.” By the time they hit “In a Gadda Da Vida,” it was no-holds-barred war. The hate that went back years erupted.

No one would ever know what sparked the conflagration, but legend would later ascribe it to a short in Albee’s Marshall stack, caused when he knocked over the Jack Daniels during his solo turn.

Indiana heard a loud crack and sizzle from somewhere under the stage and saw the red eye of Albee’s stack begin to flicker. A moan floated from Mary Lynne. The moment of truth had arrived and it struck like lightning. Wright took it all in instantly, as if his now heightened senses were a tentacled aura. In a drunken rage Albee flipped his ’54 Strat over his back, flipped open a menacing Spyderco serrated blade with his thumb and rushed toward Indiana, murder in his eyes. Wright saw his ’58 ‘burst lying in a shambles, its head snapped off in a jagged scar. Albee, reeking of liquor and tobacco, closed and lunged at Indiana’s still body. The blade caught a glint of light from the flames. In a blaze Indiana Wright reached out for his broken Paul, simultaneously twisting his body, thrusting the neck upward toward Albee’s falling body.

Cosmic surprise was the look frozen on Albee’s whiskey-soaked visage as he lay back on his knees, like a young Van Halen after a slide across the stage. Now dead, once and for all. Indiana had to work quickly, no time for gloating. Where to find the vital clue? Albee’s Strat kept his body propped up, right arm extended, grasping the knife. There, reaching for the neck protruding from his lifeless body, was Albee’s left hand, clenched tight. Indiana went for the hand, prying open the iron grip. Another crash signaled the need for haste. Luck was with him and he wrested the talisman from Albee’s death grasp.

Indiana sprang over to Mary Lynne, picking up her limp body and rushing for the stage door. An explosion engulfed the club (and what was left of Albee) in molten fire. Mary Lynne, warm and aromatic in his arms, began to stir. “Got it?” she asked, as he put her in the seat to head toward the airstrip. He placed the talisman in her hand. Her eyes lowered to see a tortoise guitar pick engraved, “House of Music, Wheat Ridge, Colorado.” The real adventure was about to begin.

* * * *

The worst part was the anxiety and the physical schlepping. The luggage weighed a ton. I had gotten a couple of suitcases at the Salvation Army for six bucks and gone down to the fabric district in South Philly for foam rubber. A few saw cuts and shear snips later my camera gear was pretty securely stashed in innocent looking and, with any luck, secure luggage ready for the flight out to visit the Temple of Doom. Imagine…a guitar graveyard, two buildings full of 20 years’ accumulation of guitars, amps, banjos, fiddles, horns, and cats, so many you could hardly walk. Was it true? Rumors abound about these places. Yes, it was going to be an adventure alright. But god, two huge suitcases and a duffle bag full of camera gear, light stands, and clothes were heavy.

There were also a ton of mysteries surrounding this enormous stash of instruments. Where exactly was it? What was there? Who owned them? Most of the answers would be learned over the next few days…some would remain mysteries.

The Twisted Path
You might say the road to the Temple began with Kiss, the band. Or Kiss and Van Halen. Well, maybe Kiss, Van Halen, and government subsidies to academia.

Kiss because they were dressed in weird outfits and exaggerated Japanese makeup, hooked up with Kramer guitars, and came up with the Gene Simmons Axe, one of the most desirable of the aluminum-necked Kramers from the ’70s.

Edward Van Halen because he’s such a good guitar player. Eddie played, or at least endorsed, Kramer guitars, too, and that connection inspired a young man named Terry Boling to eventually become obsessed with collecting Kramers. It was Terry who helped us assemble the Kramer history a year or so back. He wanted a Simmons Axe to fill in his sizable Kramer collection.

Government funded academics because they created the internet, the most significant advance in borderless interpersonal communications since CB radios. It was via the internet that I first met Terry, which led to our friendship. It was via the internet that Terry hooked up with Tom Jahn, a fellow in Denver who was brokering some guitars for a friend, including a Simmons Axe. Tom told Terry about the amazing cache of instruments he’d uncovered, and Terry directed him to me. About 100 e-mails and jpegs later, there I was, perspiring while I unloaded a ton of luggage out of a cab onto the airport curb.

The good news is that U.S. Air is a major carrier in Philadelphia and runs a zillion flights to everywhere from here. The bad news is that since this is an East Coast point of origin and the day is still unfolding to the west, most of them originate in Philly and all of them leave at 9 a.m. That means lines. Hundreds of people snaking from here to eternity. Fortunately, they had curbside check-in, and finally, after fighting off an old guy in a white belt who thought he was so important he could skip the line, I got the camera gear checked and was on my way. I even got the aisle I’d been promised, rather than being shoehorned into a too-small center seat. The guy in front of me didn’t even push his seat back once.

Hitting the Road
We touched down at 1 p.m., right on schedule. I negotiated the tram, got my luggage (intact) and rental car, and was off and running to discover the Temple of Doom II (we’ll drop the II, see sidebar). Denver sits on the edge of a broad plain at the foothills of the Rockies and was cloaked in a drab winter brown, in contrast to the vast, clear, baby-blue sky.

I headed my car past brown scrub grass and two-story bungaloes across the north side of town toward my rendezvous point at the Golden Ram, in Golden. Immediately west of the city, chunky, flat-topped mountains start popping up from the landscape. Nestled in one little valley sits a sprawling complex of low-rise buildings: Coors, reportedly the world’s largest brewery. Two blocks past the “Howdy, Folks” sign (no lie), turn right and park in the lot behind the century-old department store. Up the stairs and I’m in the Golden Ram, a Western equivalent of an East Coast diner, surrounded by mounted heads and friendly people. A scan of the room and my eyes hook up with Tom’s and we’re off for my first look at the Temple of Doom.

The Temple of Doom is located in the northwest Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge, a sleepy ranch-house/apartment complex bedroom community. The Temple of Doom is located on 44th Avenue, a commercial strip with white-tiled auto repair shops and barbecue shacks shaped like chuckwagons. The Temple itself is actually an operating music store, located in a one-story commercial building typical of the region, a corner place with a half-dozen storefronts on two sides, fringed by a parking lot full of cars. Busy? Read on.

Sensual Assault
The Temple of Doom is actually the House of Music, owned by Bob Goodman, the eccentric mystery behind it all. It’s open for business. None of the other storefronts are. They’re full of guitars and cats and the rest. There used to be a beauty shop around back, but they moved. The back store is boarded up on account of a Mexican gang firebombing.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere was a little thick because an issue had arisen between Tom and Bob between the time I’d made plans to visit and now, following the resolution of the haunted house sale. That, alas, never did get resolved during my visit, and the tension added an edge to most of my time there.

A hint of what was to come was provided when we entered the House of Music. It’s a sensory assault; on the eyes because every inch of wall and floor space is graced by guitars – Gibsons, Fenders, Ricks, and the good stuff, like Westburies, Electras and Vantages. Mostly not really vintage, just an amazing quantity of cool guitars. It’s pretty much impossible to focus your vision for the forest of familiar headstocks. And an assault on the nostrils because the atmosphere blends the musk of cats with years of pipe tobacco. Because, you see, Bob not only has collected all these guitars over the years, he’s also collected at least 40 wild and tame cats. In fact, it was cats that led to the federal felony conviction and the firebombing. But we get ahead of ourselves.

Already this was a blow to the solar plexis as I saw some of my favorite off-brand guitars beckoning me from the showroom.

Hidden Treasure
But wait! There’s more. After maybe 20 minutes of greetings and salutations, Bob produced his ring of keys and we headed to the storefront on the end. It was a bright, sunny day; pretty warm, so the aromas had plenty of time to cook, and they escaped with a whoosh as the door popped open. On the left, a trash bag full of empty cat food cans. There’s kind of a natural axiom that goes along with feeding cats, and yeah, there were piles and piles of that, too. This Temple is no place for someone with allergies.

On the right, another room crammed full of guitars on stands, Gibson 12-strings, a ton of Fender Coronados, stencilled cowboy guitars, recent Yamahas. A narrow path snaked around the guitars, and against the wall any kind of amp you could imagine. The usual Marshalls and Fenders, but also Gibson Les Pauls, Epiphones, lots of Traynors, what color Kustom tuck-and-roll do you like? Danos, Silvertones. Stroke time for amp lovers.

The next room down the hall, stepping over a few cat accidents, offered a crowded view of a double-tiered acoustic rack dominating the center of the room, chock-a-block full. A rare Gibson acoustic electric, an old S.S. Steward parlor guitar, a handful of Harmony archtops, Kays, a red-white-and-blue Harmony Buck Owens. No need to go further. But on the walls, protected by another phalanx of amplifiers, were the electrics. A whole wall of Gibson SGs, with a few Gretsch Corvettes thrown in for good measure. This proved to be my favorite room. Mosrite Ventures, a fake Mosrite Ventures called the aVengers model, Martin electrics, a collection of Standel thinlines, Silvertones, a line of Danelectros, a whole slew of Hagstroms. Just flick off the cat hair and you’re ready to boogie!

While Rome Burns
The Temple of Doom is not just about guitars, by the way. Just down the hall from these last two troves of axes were the violin rooms. The first was a small room with floor-to-ceiling shelves stuffed neatly with fiddle cases. Little ones, big ones, new ones, old ones, ancient ones. In the next room, next to the turned over furniture, were the boxes of fiddles and bows. It was in this room we would later set up and shoot pictures of guitars, and where we learned it’s better not to move anything that’s been lying on the floor for any amount of time! Anyhow, I don’t know boo about fiddles and bows, but I suspect if I did I’d want to get a look in those cases.

Although the Templemeister didn’t play violin, he had once upon a time been a professional trumpeteer. He’d studied music back home in Delaware and actually taught in a number of New Jersey school districts where his eccentric views tended to get him turned down for tenure. His most memorable concert was in a pick-up band backing a televised Bob Hope special. Hope, according to Bob, the Master of the Temple of Doom, saved on expenses by using charts extensively coded A, B, C, etc. The band leader would instruct everyone to play A twice, go down to M once, over to D three times. Needless to say everyone got lost. So did the check, because the band got stiffed afterward. At least that’s what Bob says.

So, if you like horns, you’d probably like the horn room, a slightly larger twin to the fiddle room, lined all round with every sort of horn case you can imagine.

I was already on sensory overload, but, as the songwriter put it so well, we’d only just begun. The storefront next door actually only had one room full of guitar cases. This was where repairs were done. Or would be if they really did repairs anymore. No treasures hid in the cases, but the real find was the parts. Boxes of old pickups. Ever wonder where all those knobs and whammy bars disappeared to? Colorado. Or how about those old Kluson Deluxe tuners? There’s a 50-pound box of them at the Temple. In many ways, leaving behind all those parts was the hardest thing.

Terrorism
By the time we got around to the stores on the side of the building, I was pretty numb. The firebombed store was boarded up. It was full of boxes and old file cabinets and this huge 20-foot metal guitar sign that had once sat outside a local music store. I checked out a couple of the file cabinets (the electricity was off, so no lights), but they were mostly full of pop songbooks from the ’70s. Legend has it that the Temple hides a trove of catalogs, but mostly I found Carpenters collections and Radio Shack sales flyers from the early ’80s.

The third storefront held even more treasures, mostly ’60s cheapos, some nice banjos and mandolins, some crummy acoustics and, under a loaded workbench, a huge stash of lap steels. This was where Les, the 70-year-old guy who occasionally came in to fix things, did his repairs, which mostly consisted of putting a cheap trapeze tailpiece on everything. There are more boogered guitars with cheap trapezes than you can imagine lurking in the dark corners of the Temple! There’s a reason, which we’ll come to shortly.

In the back were two huge piles of guitar cases. These were supposed to contain treasures, but we went through one huge pile later and all we found were guitars that had come in for repair and were so crappy their owners never came back for them. This disappointment kind of turned us off rummaging through piles of cases, not that there wasn’t enough opportunity! Who knows what’s in some of them?

The next storefront, once a beauty parlor, was pretty much empty except for the guitars Tom had e-mailed pictures of in the early days. Back behind one of those large metal cafeteria racks they wheel trays on, a broken gun cabinet, and a ’50s bicycle, were the rooms for shampoos and perms. It was here we began shooting pictures. Best of all, no cats!

The Trader
So, what unites the cafeteria tray rack, the trapeze tailpieces, and the old cars? You see, Bob hates to make a deal unless it’s on his terms. If the book says a guitar is worth from $300 to $500, then it’s worth $500. If you try to get him down, it goes to $600. This unusual form of doing business is one of the main reasons the Temple is so full of guitars. However, Bob does like to trade. You want a guitar that’s $600 and have an old lawn mower? You might get the guitar for $400 with that in trade. That’s because he can sell it when he gets the thrift shop for the battered women charity going.

The food trays, bikes, guitars with no bridges, old stereos, and, yes, all the cars came in on trades. The city has been on Bob to move them because they claim he’s storing the eyesores. Instead, Bob gets them all inspected and tagged, just in case. Bob loves flipping government the bird, which sometimes gets him in trouble.

Between jet lag and a bazillion guitars, I was pretty blasted by this time. So we stopped off for a couple double Absolutes, then I crashed.

The following two days were spent taking photos of the hoard. This was part of the reason for my trip, after all – a chance to get photos of guitars for stories. With Tom acting as my assistant, we set up the lights and backdrops and shot almost 100 studio-style photos in medium-format and 35 mm. Ninety-six guitars, to be exact, in less than two days. We finished early and Bob offered to take us to Bilgewater.

To Bilgewater
Bilgewater is really Edgewater, a once toney Denver suburb on this nice little lake, formerly a resort destination, but now a working-class town filled with small houses and some ethnic minorities, including the Mexican and his gang. It was because of the Mexican that the Templemeister is a convicted federal felon who wants to open a thrift shop for the battered women’s charity. You see, as we’ve already established, Bob likes cats. In fact, he likes to rescue cats, which is why he has both tame and wild ones in his menagerie. The problem is he uses traps to catch them, and that got him into trouble in Bilgewater.

The House of Music in Bilgewater is actually the original store that got the Templemeister into this mess to begin with. It was owned and operated by a couple for years, and Bob would bring in guitars to sell on consignment. Over the years his tab grew to more than $10,000 owed to him for guitars they’d sold. The problem was they were $60,000 in debt and couldn’t pay. In one of those moves he claims to regret, Bob confronted them and offered them the choice of going to jail or forking over the store. They gladly signed over the store, and Bob found himself owning a lot of guitars and owing a lot of money.

Bob originally had big plans for the store, which is very similar to his other building except its more urban location exchanges the parking lot for sidewalk. It’s right across from the Edgewater police station. Then the two kids came in to case the joint. As they checked the alarm system and angled around both sides toward the cash register, Bob pulled a gun. That brought the cops, and Bob (not the homeboys) got busted. Then Bob caught his manager with his hand in the till, and the cops refused to show up for that. Like we said, Bob’s no fan of government and this left a bitter taste in his mouth for the powers that be in Bilgewater.

A Federal Offense
Well, screw Bilgewater. Bob locked up the store right then and there, and it’s been closed ever since. Bob only went over once in awhile to set the traps. That’s when he caught the cat. Taking good care of it, he got it spayed and got it shots. He then gave it to someone, but somehow they got in a disagreement, I forget the Byzantine details, and these other folks told the original owner – a gang member – they knew where his cat was – with Bob. That’s when the gang showed up, got in an argument over the expropriated cat, and called the cops again. Bob was busted in Bilgewater again.

If Bob had a better feeling for authority, this probably would have blown over. Instead, when the judge asked Bob if he was sorry and would he do it again, Bob replied, “In a heartbeat.” The judge threw the book at him. The book, in this case, was upgrading the conviction to “highjacking livestock.” That’s a federal felony.

Bob now found himself on parole, required to do community service at a thrift shop run by a charity for battered women. That’s where he got the idea to open up one of his own someday, in the storefront next to the one the gang later firebombed in retaliation for stealing the cat, for which the Templemeister received the federal felony conviction!

The Second Stash
Still with me? So we found ourselves meeting at the Bilgewater store, which no one else has seen in years. We went separately because Bob has his own way of sneaking in, because the gang has threatened to shoot Bob on sight, and he takes the threat seriously. Bob drives quickly past the shop and doubles back around down the alley to a hidden parking area behind the building. A quick turn of the locks and we’re in.

This Temple of Doom II is nowhere as impressive as the many rooms of the Wheat Ridge location, but there’s still a ton of instruments in what would have been a spectacular store if the homeboys hadn’t interfered. In the front are 20 or so mandolins hanging on the wall, facing about six generations of Magnatone amps, from little pearloid jobs to some M suitcase models, covered (thank god) in dust, not cat hair. Various other electronic devices (a Dano reverb pedal) litter the shelves and cases. A heavy shelf surrounds most of the store, jam packed with drum kits covered in every sparkle or other material known to man. I’d guess 200 drum kits, plus a wall of hardware and maybe 500 cymbals.

“These aren’t the drums,” says Bob with a grin. “I’ve got another building full of my drums.”

Behind a wall warning people to have a salesman present lies the trove. Probably 100 acoustic guitars on a rack, mostly cheap Kays and Harmonies and Japanese guitars, but with some cool Supros, too. A wall of banjos, mostly less expensive brands, but some very neat old resonators. Back against the wall, stacks (and I mean stacks) of Fender amps 10 feet high. In the corner were seven near-mint Silvertone amp-in-cases. More sparkle-covered Kustom amps. Around them, at least three more piles of cases, each the size of a good-sized office, probably 12 cubic feet each. Probably 75 or more cases per pile. Some empty. Some who knows? The homes of the rumored Gretsch Sparkle Jets Bob thought he had?

Alas, despite our itching fingers, we’d never know what lay under those mountains of hinge and tolex. Bob was getting itchy himself. After about 15 minutes he’d been there long enough for his nemesis to get the word, and the last thing any of us wanted to be was part of a drive-by. So we locked Temple II back up and rode back into the sunset, leaving its hoard largely unexplored.

Let’s Make a Deal
My last day was spent alone with the Master of the Temple of Doom, and the air cleared, free of the interpersonal tension of the previous days. Bob reminisced about playing in jazz bands and talked of his hero and friend, Maynard Ferguson. And of his days singing and conducting opera in Philadelphia, from whence I’d come. And we talked a little about his plans for spending the money he’d just gotten from the sale of the haunted house. Remember the haunted house? This was a dilapidated house he owned down in Colorado Springs that the government (sense a theme here) wanted to condemn. I never did work up the courage to find out why it was haunted. Apparently there was a tenant and he’d sold the place to some other party, even though he didn’t own it. I never found out how that could happen either, but apparently Bob had reached a settlement for some additional cash from the buyer to legitimize the deal. Feeling flush, he was planning to sue Bilgewater and his first lawyers and appeal his federal felony conviction for hijacking the Mexican’s cat. Bob’s favorite hobby, he says, is suing.

I did manage to buy a few treasures of my own as souvenirs. I was prepared to spend more, but Bob wouldn’t sell me some of what I wanted. I got a good deal but didn’t steal anything. Like I said, Bob only does deals on his terms. After we’d boxed them up and I handed him the money, Bob grinned and held up the cash. “Know what I can get with this,” he queried? “Ten more cars!”

And that, gentle reader, is the truth, which is, indeed, stranger than fiction. And yes, I was born in Indiana!

I’d like to thank Bob Goodman, Tom Jahn, Terry Boling, and, most especially Alan and Cleo Greenwood and everyone at Vintage Guitar magazine for making the trip to the Temple of Doom possible. It’s a real place, but no place for someone with an attitude in search of a lowball deal, or anyone affected by cats. Bob won’t sell wholesale, so don’t bother to call, unless you have something to trade that he wants. If you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you!



The Temple of Doom I
While the number of treasures archived in the Colo-rado Temple of Doom is amazing to say the least, this is not the first such guitar graveyard to turn up. Indeed, there are tales of semi-trailers in Indiana, Illinois or Michigan, and god knows how many others. However, it’s generally agreed among the cogniscenti that the original Temple of Doom was actually Music City, a.k.a. Newark Musical Merchandise, in downtown Newark, New Jersey.

Operating in Newark for nearly a century, Music City is operated by the Ciarfella family, founded originally by Robert Ciarfella ca. 1926, run later by Robert’s son, Armand, and now under the leadership of grandson John. For those of us privileged enough to visit this Temple of Consigned Treasures, the trip was fantastic.

Music City sits proudly on the edge of downtown Newark, an old manufacturing city on the ring of ancient suburbs surrounding New York City. Like many other old East Coast cities, Newark has seen better days and currently is home to post-industrial services and a polyglot of ethnic types far-removed from its once-European heritage. Occupying two four-story buildings on a corner, across the side street are some muddy fenced-in lots which serve as parking and litter-collectors. Kitty corner, as it were, are some topless bars as the lusterless commercial district trails off into gritty, down-at-the-heels residential neighborhoods.

The Back Room
The two store fronts downstairs could be any old music store in any old city. Pianos on the right, inexpensive Asian guitars, a few used guitars and miscellaneous instruments on the left. But once you got behind the counter, into the back room, magnificent sights began to unfold.

Unfortunately, I got to the Newark Temple fairly late, after it has been already picked over by savvy collectors. Enough, indeed, for John to be wary of dealers looking to score high-ticket stock for a song. But if you like the more humble gems like me, Music City was still a goldmine in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and it didn’t take long to convince John I was collecting and doing history, not dealing. Hanging on the racks in back were tons of old Japanese guitars from the ’60s. Many, like my copper Teisco with a “monkey grip,” were new old stock, leftover from the days when Newark Musical Merchandise was a large regional distributor. Indeed, my three Kapa guitars were NOS left there unsold from ’66. I’m not the only collector who pulled mint Kapas from the Newark Temple.

Upstairs!
Encountering 100 to 150 ’60s guitars on the back racks was enough to send any red-blooded guitar geek into a frenzy, but that wasn’t the real prize. The real deal was up century-old slab stairs to the upper floors. There, watching your step carefully, you entered the true Temple. In the back sitting on rough-hewn plank floors were aisles of ancient wooden cupboards chock full of old stuff. I discovered 30 or 40 Maestro pedals from ’76 still in their boxes. I arranged to broker these to a dealer friend for a fair price (the closest I ever got to dealing), keeping a good example of each for myself as a commission. ’60s replacement parts? Box after box. John gave me carton of little plastic uke/button devices made by Mario Maccaferri in the ’50s. Case after case of Japanese replacement pickups, vibratos, bridges, tuners – you name it.

To show you how far back this went, down another aisle were boxes of old tone arms and stylii from ’20s Victrolas, back when the store sold such items. As far as I know most of this stuff is still there, accumulating dust.

Back in the maze that was the upper floors were stacks of old boxes, containing more Kapas and god knows what else. I also got my Teisco amp-in-guitar there, though I think that was a used guitar. There’s nothing like the thrill of rooting through cardboard guitar boxes finding old Kapas wrapped in packing tissue, though, to be honest, time had had her way with many, corroding parts and cracking finishes. But still, what a time!

Burley-cue
As wonderful as finding the troves of NOS was, there was yet an even more wonderful thrill for those who experience it. Following an arcane passageway carved in the crumbling red brick between the two buildings, illuminated by naked light bulbs on dangling wires, one would be led ever upward into the top recesses of the second building. As it turns out, 100 years or so ago, this building had been a burlesque house. And there, as you rounded the corner on the top two floors you came face to face with a full-scale burlesque theatre, complete with proscenium stage, wings, flies, seats, and grimy skylight. The old curtains still hung, crumbling with the ghosts of pretty-legged dancers, pee-pee-doo-doo comedians, and novelty musicians. Some of the old boxes were stored in back here, too, but for the most part this wonderful window into a time when Newark, New Jersey, was a happening place full of new immigrant Americans out for a good time. It was awe-inspiring.

Music City is still in business, though the focus is back to distributing merchandise to small neighborhood music stores. John still has a back room full of old guitars, but most of the best leftover stuff has long since walked out the door. What’s left frequently shows up on the eBay auction. He’d like a fair price for things, so there’s no point in golddigging. But who knows what treasures still lie up in those old dusty cupboards? Or how many of those boxes still have a new ’60s Kapa in them?


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